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How does Man City stack up against best PL teams in history?

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Manchester City’s disappointment in the UEFA Champions League shouldn’t define its 2017/18 season, particularly because of the excellence of the squad in the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola‘s second season in England has proven to be an overwhelming success, with the Citizens losing just twice in league action under the watch of the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager.

[ MORE: Areas of improvement for Man City next season ]

City’s brilliance has already resulted in a number of record-breaking feats, including locking up the PL title with five matches remaining in the current campaign. However, the Manchester side is far from done, and there are plenty more records that await the Etihad Stadium side.

With a 16-point margin over rivals Manchester United, the Citizens could very easily shatter the record for largest point gap between first and second place. United did that back in 1999/2000 when Sir Alex Ferguson‘s club finished 18 points above Arsenal.

Guardiola and Co. have looked the dominant side since August, and it’s rare for a club to keep up this sort of brilliance for the course of a 38-match season, and yet City has done so with little struggles for the most part.

Pro Soccer Talk decided to take a look at how Man City stacks up against the best PL sides in league history.

Chelsea (2004/05) — Record: 29-8-1 (95 points) — Most points in PL season

Chelsea (2016/17) — Record: 30-3-5 (93 points)

Manchester United (1999/00) — Record: 28-7-3 (91 points)

Arsenal (2003/04) — Record: 26-12-0 (90 points) — Only unbeaten club in PL history

Man City (2011/12) — Record: 28-5-5 (89 points)

Blackburn Rovers (1994/95) — Record: 27-8-7 (89 points)

Man City (Current season in progress) — Record: 28-3-2 (87 points)

Manchester United (2007/08) — Record: 27-6-5 (87 points)

Man City (2013/14) — Record: 27-5-6 (86 points)

Leicester City (2015/16) — Record: 23-12-3 (81 points)

Clubs like Arsenal’s 2003/04 squad, as well as Chelsea’s team the following season have long been seen as the gold standards in the Premier League. In particular, the Gunners because of their unblemished record in the top flight back in the early 2000s.

With five matches to play though, City can squash the points record by winning three of its matches. That feat is very much a possibility for the incumbent champions due to their fixture list over the final month.

That leaves the question though: how good is this Manchester City side?

Very rarely now in soccer do we see a club succeed without having the financial backing of a wealthy owner. That being said, all the top sides in England on a regular basis have that sort of financial support, particularly City, Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal.

It’s quite uncommon to see a club like Leicester City pull off a sustained success like the Foxes did in 2015/16, which made for one of the most dramatic and appealing seasons since the PL’s inception.

Taking factors like money out of it, Man City has been a machine in 2017/18, and Guardiola’s patience and brilliance in building his squad has paid massive dividends.

The club’s depth is nearly unmatched when trying to compare City’s roster to previous sides in the PL.

This year, City has had to deal with a multitude of injuries, including those to Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero and David Silva. There have been others as well, but those four have all been tabbed as key contributors to the City attack over the past several seasons.

Names like Benjamin Mendy and Danilo have been rarely mentioned this year for their respective stints on the injured list, which furthers the impression of the team’s depth and quality of reserve players.

The Citizens haven’t skipped a beat in times of angst though, and the two instance where the club faced defeat this season — 4-3 to Liverpool and 3-2 against Man United — were both incredibly close encounters.

The story of this squad hasn’t been completed yet, but regardless of what transpires the rest of the way, this Man City side will surely remain amongst those of the elite in England’s first division.

Spurs’ Son happy South Korea “unscathed” in North Korea qualifier

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As expected, North Korea did not broadcast its World Cup second round qualifier against South Korea this week, making for an old school “wait and see” for fans back home in South Korea.

The match ended 0-0 in front of no fans in Pyongyang, with just police in the stands as Heung-Min Son and South Korea kept their group lead over the North Koreans on goal differential.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

Son, the Tottenham Hotspur star, says it was an odd experience. From The Korea Herald:

“The opponents were pretty physical, and we exchanged some terse words,” Son told reporters at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul. “It might have been their strategy. They played it rough, and they took exception to our own physical play. …. Rather than focusing on the match, we started worrying about trying not to get hurt. It means a lot to have come out unscathed from a match like this.”

The few videos released by journalists show an eerie scene, and South Korea’s status as AFC powers probably played in North Korea’s lack of desire to broadcast a potential home loss. But you have to think that also lived in the home players heads a bit, too.

Atlanta heads into MLS playoffs looking to defend its Cup

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MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) It’s been a strange season for Atlanta United.

They’ve added more two more cups to their collection.

They’ve endured some rather baffling losses.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

After all that, the defending MLS Cup champions are heading into the postseason from essentially the same position as last season.

Atlanta, which was runner-up in the Eastern Conference, will host the New England Revolution on Saturday in the opening round of the playoffs, a rematch of their Oct. 6 game to close out the regular season.

“We’ve put ourselves in a pretty decent spot, as strange as the season has maybe been,” midfielder Julian Gressel said Wednesday after a training session. “We’ve already won two trophies, and now we have a chance for a third.”

In mid-August, United broke out the champagne after a 3-2 victory over Mexican powerhouse Club America to capture the Campeones Cup.

A couple of weeks later, they were celebrating again with a 2-1 victory over Minnesota United in the U.S. Open Cup final, guaranteeing a spot in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League.

“I felt like we were always there and pretty much at our best in those games,” Gressel said. “That’s why I’m pretty confident we’ll be at our best when it really matters.”

But there are reasons to be concerned. Atlanta struggled badly in some league games – especially on the road – and rarely looked like the dynamic team that won the MLS Cup in just its second year under former coach Tata Martino.

With Frank De Boer now at the helm, United got off to a sluggish start and spent much of the season juggling lineups and switching up tactics in a desperate bid to find some consistency. Atlanta never put together an unbeaten streak longer than five games – it had three such stretches a year ago – and finished with 58 points, 58 goals and a plus-15 goal differential. All were short of the 69 points, 70 goals and plus-26 differential from the 2018 season.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings ]

Still, United’s second-place showing in the East behind New York City FC matches last year’s finish, guaranteeing the team at least one home game in the playoffs and another in the conference semifinals should it beat the Revolution.

That’s a crucial edge for a franchise that has essentially broken every MLS attendance record and again averaged more than 52,000 per game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, doubling up every team in the league except Seattle and Cincinnati. In 17 home games, Atlanta lost only twice.

While United closed out the season with a 3-1 victory over New England, the Revolution has been one of the league’s hottest teams over the second half of the season.

Atlanta will be further tested by the possible absence of its best defender, Miles Robinson, who is dealing with a strained left hamstring sustained during a workout with the U.S. national team last week.

If Robinson can’t go, United will have to change up their lineup once again and possibly adopt a more defensive approach to Saturday’s game.

“If I do push up, it’s more so getting back a little faster than I normally would, things like that,” said midfielder Darlington Nagbe, one of those who may be affected if Robinson can’t go. “Just feel the game out and see how it plays out.”

In the regular-season finale, Ezequiel Barco got the start over Pity Martinez, a lineup that de Boer might go with again in the playoffs.

Barco played only 15 league games this season because of injuries and a lengthy stint with Argentina at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, but he provided the sort of spark de Boer was looking for against New England. Martinez, who was the 2018 South American player of the year and Atlanta’s major acquisition during the last offseason, has struggled to find his nice in MLS with just five goals in 32 appearances.

“We have to see,” de Boer said. “The only thing that concerns me is to win the playoffs.”

MLS switched up the playoff format this season. Instead of the top two teams from both the East and the West receiving byes and two-legged rounds to determine the winner of conference semifinals and finals, only the first-place finisher gets the opening round off and every step of the playoffs is a single-game elimination.

There is no room for error.

“If you have an off day, you might be out,” Gressel said. “I feel like it’s a format that favors the underdog a bit more, or gives the underdog a bit more hope.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com

Zlatan paces MLS jersey sellers, offers fresh quip on Minnesota challenge

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic: He’s like a more charming, less anarchist version of Tom Hardy’s Bane.

The LA Galaxy man was revealed to again have the top-selling jersey in Major League Soccer on Wednesday, days before the club begins its 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs run with a match in Minnesota.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

Snow is in the forecast, but Zlatan is not bothered by such weather.

“I’m from Sweden I was born in the snow. When it snows, I’m a viking. When it’s warm, I’m a lion. We adjust for every condition there is.”

Back to the jerseys, the MLS MVP finalists are 1-2-3 in sales. Ibrahimovic is first, followed by Atlanta’s Josef Martinez, and LAFC’s Carlos Vela.

The top sellers amongst Americans are Seattle’s Jordan Morris (7) and Cristian Roldan (12). Chris Wondolowski of San Jose is 13th, while other domestic names on the Top 25 include Sebastian Lletget, Brad Guzan (!?!), Dom Dwyer, Jozy Altidore, and Graham Zusi.

Midweek El Clasico possible in December following political unrest

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Political unrest in Catalonia has both La Liga and the Spanish government looking to move the first El Clasico of the season.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are scheduled to meet at the Camp Nou on Oct. 26, but the jailing of nine Catalan separatists has caused uproar in-and-around Barca.

In fact, Barca as a club has denounced the imprisonment, so it plays more than a peripheral role in the controversy.

[ JPW: What now for Berhalter, USMNT? ] 

Players heading to and returning from international break have faced in challenges in getting to the club.

Instead, Marca says that we may see a midweek match played in Madrid on Wednesday, Dec. 18, with the reverse fixture in March moved from Madrid to Barcelona.

Dec. 18 would give both teams three matches in eight days before La Liga’s winter break. Barca would play Real Sociedad, Real Madrid, and Alaves, while Real would play Valencia and Real Betis in addition to the Clasico. Both difficult runs, but fairly even.